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Ukraine deal with pro-Russian rebels at Minsk talks

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lorryUkraine's government and pro-Russia rebels have agreed a memorandum on a peace plan for the eastern conflict.The nine-point deal includes setting up a 30 kilometre (19 mile) buffer zone, a ban on overflights of part of eastern Ukraine by military aircraft and the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries on both sides. The agreement was announced at talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where a ceasefire was agreed on 5 September. More than 3,000 have died in fighting in the two eastern regions since April. The original ceasefire has been frequently violated but is still holding.

Ukraine accuses Russia of arming separatists and sending Russian troops to the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Kremlin denies it has any role there.In a separate development on Saturday, three powerful blasts rocked the main rebel-held city of Donetsk, with eyewitnesses saying that a chemical plant may have been hit.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian convoy of around 200 lorries from Russia arrived in the city. Russia says the convoy - Russia's third in recent weeks - delivered food, water and generators, but this was done without Ukraine's authorisation.

The deal was reached after late-night talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, eastern separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Correspondents say it is an effort to add substance to the fragile ceasefire agreement.

Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at the talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons.

"Heavy artillery will be moved 15km away from the front line" he said.

He added that the deal would be implemented within 24 hours and monitors from the OSCE would travel to the buffer zone to check for compliance.

Aviation/airlines

European #airline passengers face huge delays this summer

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Thousands of flights recently had to be delayed because EU border controls are significantly understaffed to comply with tightened immigration checks — some passengers even missed their flights. During this busy summer travel season, airline travellers have become victims of the disproportionate impact that the implementation of a new EU Regulation is having on the flow of traffic at European airports. The regulation relates to the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders.

“Member states need to take all necessary measures now to prevent such disruptions and deploy appropriate staff and resources in sufficient numbers to carry out the requested checks. A4E has stressed the disproportionate waiting times and disrupted flow of traffic at external borders with the European Commission and calls for a swift solution on behalf of European passengers and airlines,” said A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert.

“Especially during the peak season of the year, travellers face long lines and can’t get on their flights. Queuing for up to four hours has been the top record these days; airports like Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan or Brussels are producing shameful pictures of devastated passengers in front of immigration booths, in lines stretching hundreds of metres. At some airports, flight delays have increased by 300% compared to last year — member states must take the responsibility for this,” added Reynaert.

The regulation is not fully implemented in all member states, which may lead to even more disruption during the coming weeks. The six month period to implement the regulation ends on 7 October 2017. A4E fully supports EU efforts to reinforce controls at external borders so as to preserve Schengen’s free movement area, but member states’ inability to provide efficient resources is directly impacting European airlines’ operations at European airports.

Over the past weeks, airlines have informed A4E of the disproportionate impact that the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2017/458 amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders of 15 March 2017 is having on the flow of traffic at European airports.

About A4E

Airlines for Europe (A4E) is Europe’s largest airline association, based in Brussels. Launched in January 2016, the association consists of Aegean, airBaltic, Air France KLM, Cargolux, easyJet, Finnair, Icelandair, International Airlines Group (IAG), Jet2.com, Lufthansa Group, Norwegian, Ryanair, TAP Portugal, Travel Service and Volotea, and plans to grow further. With more than 550 million passengers on board each year, A4E members account for more than 70% of the continent’s journeys, operating more than 2,700 airplanes and generating more than EUR 100 billion in annual turnover.

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Parliament asks Commission to press for full US-EU #visa reciprocity

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visa-1024x298The EU Commission is legally obliged to take measures temporarily reintroducing visa requirements for US citizens, given that Washington still does not grant visa-free access to nationals of five EU countries. In a resolution approved on Thursday (2 March), MEPs urge the Commission to adopt the necessary legal measures “within two months”. 

The text prepared by the Civil Liberties Committee was adopted by a show of hands.

Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania still cannot enter US territory without a visa, while US citizens can travel to all EU countries visa-free.

According to the visa reciprocity mechanism, if a third country does not lift its visa requirements within 24 months of being notified of non-reciprocity, the EU Commission must adopt a delegated act - to which both Parliament and the Council may object - suspending the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months.

Following a notification of non-reciprocity on 12 April 2014, the Commission should have acted before 12 April 2016 but it has yet to take any legal measure. Canada also imposes visa requirements on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, but it has announced that they will be lifted on 1 December 2017.

In April 2014, the European Commission was notified that five countries were not meeting their obligations towards the EU with regard to reciprocity of visa-free travel: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan and the US.

Australia, Brunei and Japan have since lifted their visa requirements for all EU citizens and Canada will do so in December this year.

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MEPs and Council negotiators agree to waive EU visa requirement for #Ukrainians

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pasport111Ukrainian citizens will be able to travel to the EU visa free under an informal deal struck by Parliament and Council negotiators on Tuesday (28 February). Once the change enters into force, and provided they have biometric passports, they will be able to enter the EU for up to 90 days in any 180-day-period for business, tourist or family purposes. 

The deal will now have to be endorsed by the Civil Liberties Committee and Parliament as a whole, , before being formally approved by the Council of Ministers.

Parliament´s rapporteur, Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG) said “adopting the visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens is an important step forward towards reforming Ukrainian society by bringing people together, building bridges across borders. We at the European Parliament are convinced that Ukrainian citizens now deserve the right to travel freely to the EU. The time has come for the Council to deliver results.”

Before granting this visa waiver, EU member states revised the visa waiver suspension mechanism to allow visas to be reintroduced more easily in exceptional cases. This revision was approved on Monday by the Council. The legislation will be signed by Parliament’s  President Antonio Tajani and representatives of the Maltese Presidency of the Council on Wednesday 1 March and enter into force 20 days after it is published in the EU Official Journal.

The EU and Kiev began visa liberalisation negotiations in 2008. At the end of 2015, the European Commission concluded that Ukraine had made the necessary progress and had met all the benchmarks, despite the exceptional internal and external challenges it faced in recent years, and presented a proposal to grant its citizens visa-free access to the EU from April 2016.

The visa waiver will apply to all EU member states except Ireland and the United Kingdom. It does not confer a right to work in the EU.

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